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Managing low back pain

If you’re struggling with low back pain, you’re definitely not alone. According to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about 16% of the population are experiencing back problems at any given time and more than 70% experience back pain at some point in their lives. Luckily, it’s rarely serious, and most people get better on their own. Most people improve within four weeks and are back to normal in four to six weeks, if not sooner.

Here are some tips to help you manage your low back pain:

Tip 1: Stay as active as you can

Try to stay active, walk regularly and continue with your everyday routine as much as you can. Staying active may help people with short-term low back pain feel less pain and improve their ability to do daily activities compared to resting in bed.[1] If you do experience pain, do as much as you can and slowly increase what you do. If the pain is too much doing a particular activity, you can stop and switch to something else. Skip high impact activities such as running until you’ve recovered.

Tip 2: Look after your mental wellbeing

Stress, depression and anxiety—and even being bored, tense or dissatisfied at work can play a role in back pain—so it’s important to look after your mental health and learn to manage stress. Apps like www.smilingmind.com.au can help, or www.mindspot.org.au has free online assessment and treatment courses for anxiety, depression, stress and low mood— with additional telephone support from a therapist.

Tip 3: Get relief for your symptoms

 Over-the-counter pain medicines that you can get without a prescription such as ibuprofen, naproxen or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) can help manage the pain while you recover. NSAIDs help reduce swelling as well as pain, and are more effective than paracetamol for low back pain.

If non-prescription pain medicines don’t provide enough relief you can talk to your GP about other options. They may recommend that you see a physiotherapist to learn exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your back or stretches.

Tip 4: Take steps to keep pain from coming back

  • Use correct technique when you lift or carry things
  • Don’t sit or stand in the same position for extended periods
  • Practice good posture.
  • Do stretches/ exercise to strengthen your muscles as recommended by your doctor or physio
  • If you’re overweight, losing weight can help.

For more information, see here.

Tip 5: Know when to seek help

Most back pain gets better on its own but see your doctor if yours isn’t improving within four weeks, or if the pain is so bad that you can’t complete basic daily activities—or if anything in this list applies to you.  Learn more about when you should seek help.

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=20556780

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